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Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is an inherited, chronic inflammatory skin condition. It is not contagious and usually appears in infancy or childhood but is also seen in adults, generally improving with age. Patches of skin become dry, red, scaly and itchy and tiny blisters containing clear fluid can sometimes form.  The affected areas of skin may weep indicating that the dermatitis has become infected.




Eczema is caused by a person’s inability to repair damage to the skin barrier. If a person’s skin is exposed to irritants or triggers and their skin barrier is disrupted, moisture leaves the skin and the skin becomes dry and scaly. Allergens from the environment can also enter the skin and activate the immune system producing inflammation that makes the skin red and itchy.


Common triggers that can dry the skin or cause a reaction can include:

  • Temperature changes, particularly heat,
  • Dry air (from air conditioners or heaters),
  • Contact with irritants in the environment (dust, pollen, carpets, wool),
  • Animals,
  • Chemicals (perfumes, soap, moistures),
  • Swimming in chlorinated pools, and
  • In rare cases, an allergic reaction to particular foods such as artificial colourings or preservatives.


You are more likely to get eczema if you have a family history of eczema or allergic conditions, including hay fever and asthma.



Treatment options

Eczema can vary in severity and symptoms may flare up or subside from day to day. It is important to be aware of your triggers to minimise flare ups and help ease the symptoms.


Management strategies should include:

  • Avoid overheating - Wear layers of thin clothing that can be removed instead of one heavy layer; synthetic materials will also prevent air circulation. Use lukewarm water for bathing and washing, try to avoid staying in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time and if possible stay in a moderate temperature controlled environment.
  • Avoid skin irritation - Try to avoid scented or medicated shampoos, soaps, perfumes and beauty products which can dry, scratch and irritate skin. Discontinue use if you experience a reaction with a product.
  • Avoid dry skin - Moisturisers add moisture to the skin and can be used repeatedly throughout the day as required. It is particularly important to moisturise after showering and bathing, and when living or working in an air-conditioned or heated environment. Bath oils can moisten skin in the shower.


Your health care professional may be able to recommend additional treatment options for persistent or exacerbated symptoms.



The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.



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